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Ten-year-old taking on plastic menace

Michelle Muthoni is a budding entrepreneur. Together with friends she collects plastic bags to make different products

Michelle Muthoni,10, stumbled upon a business idea from an unfortunate incident. Last year while playing with friends one of them stepped on a plastic bottle, slipped and hurt her foot.

Muthoni, a Class Six student from Juja Town Kiambu county looked at the deformed bottle and this gave her an idea of recycling plastic bottles to make curtains.

“I used to collect bottles with the help of my friends and after cleaning them I would cut the bottom part and using a hot needle make two holes on both sides of the bottle for strings and this would give me durable curtains,” she said.

For three months she was using plastic bottles, but because they were so scarce she wanted to have another raw material, which was readily available. She started using plastic bags and even started making other products.

Using this waste she also makes crotchet hats and handbags, jewellery such as earrings, necklaces and bangles, table mats, jumping ropes and belts.

“I realised that plastic paper bags are the main cause of drainage systems blockage and that is why I thought of recycling them so that we can have a clean and healthy environment,” she said.

She explains that because she doesn’t want to concentrate more on the project and forget about education, she has dedicated all weekends and school holidays to the project.

Last year during Little Miss Kenya beauty pageant her project was the best in the mini-category and she was crowned the miss eco-project Kenya.

She is also the current little Miss Kiambu and she hopes that her project will take her to different places so that she can reach many children and train them on how they can play a role in environment conservation.

“It is not only the Nairobi county that suffers from this problem, even other counties are and that is why I want to reach as many children as I can and train them on the three R’s that is recycle, re-use and reduce,” she adds.

Through her art and crafts workshops and training programmes, she is turning the waste into wealth. Together with her friends they visit schools, streets offices and garbage dumps to collect their materials. First, they clean and dry the waste.

Then, they cut, roll and process the paper and plastic into place mats, jewellery, bags and other accessories. Not only does the initiative benefit the environment, but it also empowers children because some have started producing these products for sale.

“My mother trained me how to make these products and through practice I have learnt more skills. Because of this I also train children for free and for adults who would like to be economically empowered I can also train them,” she says.

Currently, she has not set specific prices for her products because her aim is to reach as many people as possible and she accepts the little that her customers offer, but she is quick to note that the business is doing well and she would consider this as a career even if her dream is to become an air force pilot.

“If at all the plastic ban in Kenya will be effected I am ready to find other ways of making my products. Currently I have started a project with plastic bottles and I believe the project will come up with nice products,” she said.

Her advice to young entrepreneurs is that never be discouraged and when you realise that you have a talent you should work it out and follow your heart and dreams.

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